A suicide-bomb plot vs Gordon Brown


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Mar 31, 2009


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07th January 2010

Named: The six Cabinet ministers accused of backing botched plot to oust Gordon Brown

  • <LI style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">Chaotic coup falls at first hurdle after heavyweights fail to pledge public support <LI style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">Labour faces civil war as Gordon Brown's authority takes irreparable battering <LI style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">PM brands leadership challenge bid as 'storm in a tea cup'

    [*]David Cameron and Nick Clegg call for immediate election
    [*]Mandy refuses to condemn putsch describing plotters are 'good friends'

Labour's civil war deepened today after six Cabinet ministers were accused of backing a failed coup to oust Gordon Brown, sparking calls for an immediate election.
David Miliband, Harriet Harman, Bob Ainsworth, Jack Straw, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander had all allegedly promised to support the call for a secret leadership ballot.

The Labour heavyweights - named by the BBC's Nick Robinson - apparently pulled out at the last minute, ending the putsch but inflicting devastating damage on Mr Brown.




Plotters? (left to right) David Miliband, Harriet Harman and Jack Straw are all accused of backing the coup




Bob Ainsworth, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander had also allegedly offered support
Today the alleged plotters were facing pressure to 'back or sack' Mr Brown after they yesterday issued only lukewarm statements of support for the beleaguered prime minister.
Tory leader David Cameron said the wrangling demonstrated why it was time for a general election.

He told the Today programme: 'You just have to ask yourself, "How much time do you think senior ministers spent yesterday thinking about the budget deficit, about the education of our children, about the war in Afghanistan, and how much were they thinking about their own careers?" for you to realise that, as we've put it pretty clearly, we cannot go on like this.

'We've got to have an election and a change of government.'

He added that the plot was a sign Gordon Brown was in deep trouble while his government was 'deeply divided.'

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has also called for an immediate election.
Mr Brown today brushed off the latest attempt to unseat him as 'a storm in a teacup.'
In his first remarks since the attempted putsch by former Cabinet ministers yesterday, he insisted he had spent little time considering the challenge to his leadership.

He told BBC Radio Solent: 'It's taken up very little of my time.
'I think it's one of these sidelines in this time when people are far more worried about, as they should be, about what we are doing to deal with the weather and to make sure that people are safe and secure.

WHO BACKED THE COUP? Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, former Welfare Reform minister Frank Field, former Home Officer minister Fiona Mactaggart, former Tourism minister Janet Anderson, ex Health minister Gisela Stuart, Lewisham West MP Jim Dowd and backbencher Barry Sheerman

'So it's not going to take up much of my time and hasn't, certainly, taken up much of my time.'

Mr Brown said that, as the drama at Westminster unfolded yesterday afternoon, he was in meetings about Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism, and efforts to cope with the snow.

He dismissed suggestions that ministers' eventual statements of support had been lukewarm, insisting: 'You can read into quotes what you want.'

Mr Brown claimed that most Cabinet ministers demonstrated their support for him 'within an hour or two'.

He said: 'I would say to you this is a bit of a storm in a teacup. We are actually dealing with real storms at the moment.'

Mr Brown said he would continue to 'lead from the front' and 'say what I think, even if sometimes it's unpopular'.
The leadership plot, led by ex-Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, was primed to cause maximum disruption.

The pair sent email and text messages to all Labour MPs, calling for a vote of confidence, as Mr Brown was on his feet for the first Prime Minister's Questions of election year.

But, like the two previous abortive attempts to oust him, it appeared chaotically organised, ill-timed and doomed to failure.

The plotters even sent a blank email to MPs at 10.59am, followed by an apology and the real call to arms at 12.26pm.

Within hours, the coup had fallen through and Mr Brown had survived yet another torrid crisis. But the damage to his authority and reputation appears irreparable.
Faced with a fresh bout of bitter in-fighting, the prime minister's allies lined up to give gushing interviews today praising his leadership.

Though Mr Brown may be glad of the support of Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, Eric Joyce and Jim Sheridan, many members of the Cabinet were notable by their absence.

Some, particularly Mr Miliband and Ms Harman who are both in the frame to succeed Mr Brown, will come under intense pressure to explain their actions.

Cold front: Snow falls as Prime Minister Gordon Brown leaves the Commons after Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt called for a leadership ballot

The leadership plot against Gordon Brown, led by Patricia Hewitt, above, and Geoff Hoon, was designed to cause maximum disruption in the run-up to the election

Foreign Secretary Mr Miliband was silent for almost seven hours yesterday before giving the most grudging of responses to the crisis.

Making no reference to Mr Brown's leadership, he merely stated: 'I am working closely with the Prime Minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election campaign for a Labour government that he is leading.'

However, he offered stronger backing today saying,' we are all determined to win the election under Gordon's leadership.'

Jack Straw, meanwhile, today dismissed the claim that he would have been prepared to move against Mr Brown as 'a very sub-standard piece of journalism'.

He insisted that he and other ministers had had no inkling of the coup attempt which had now 'sunk'.

'I was astonished - we all were," he told reporters. "It is something we could have easily done without.'

Bob Ainsworth has also denied any involvement.
There was fury among the Prime Minister's allies that Labour had descended into another bout of in-fighting with an election expected in as little as 120 days
and signs that the Tory poll lead is narrowing.
They said voters would be bewildered if the party embarked on a 'self-indulgent' leadership contest with the country in recession.
Lord Mandelson last night described the leaders of the latest coup attempt as 'good friends of mine' - as he offered Gordon Brown only lukewarm support.

The Business Secretary refused to condemn the latest plot to unseat the Prime Minister, but said it had failed.
He said on BBC2's Newsnight: 'They are good friends of mine - I respect them. I am quite sure they thought they were acting in the best interests of the party, but the party didn't agree with them.

'The party has reached a settled view that they want Gordon Brown to lead them into the next election.'
During last summer's attempt to unseat Mr Brown Lord Mandelson was credited with steadying the ship by offering lavish praise for the Prime Minister.
In contrast yesterday his spokesman simply called on Labour MPs not to 'over-react' to the latest 'initiative'.
Earlier Lord Mandelson warned against introducing further 'punitive' tax rises, breaking his month-long silence. There is speculation that he was unhappy with Labour's Pre-Budget Report and Mr Brown's election strategy.

Mr Hoon was harangued on live TV by Labour loyalists, who called his disloyalty 'disgraceful'.

The former Cabinet minister was carrying out a series of interviews in the Central Lobby when insults like 'loser' began to fly.

He also made a humiliating appearance on BBC's Newsnight.
Asked by presenter Jeremy Paxman: 'If you were Brutus, Caesar would have been fine, wouldn't he?', Mr Hoon replied, 'Yes.'

There was an eerie silence over a snowbound Westminster as senior members of Mr Brown's government resisted demands from Number Ten to support him in public.
Chancellor Alistair Darling, who is said to have clashed with the PM over last month's much-criticised Pre-Budget Report, failed to give him unequivocal backing.
He said: 'As far as I'm concerned we should be concentrating on the business of government and getting through the recession.'
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, the unofficial deputy Prime Minister, who has maintained a month-long public silence after reports of Cabinet rifts over election strategy, issued the thinnest of statements of support. It said people should not 'over-react' to Mr Hoon's 'initiative'.

Deputy leader Harriet Harman - a close friend of Miss Hewitt - said: 'We're all getting on with the job as ministers in the government which Gordon Brown leads.'
Labour sources said the support from Mr Darling, Miss Harman and Justice Secretary Jack Straw came only after a series of one-to- one meetings with the Prime Minister. There was speculation that they had demanded concessions over election strategy and policy.

The Cabinet response was in stark contrast to the last failed coup attempt, when James Purnell resigned in June. Then it took Lord Mandelson just half an hour to persuade David Miliband to hit the airwaves in support of the Prime Minister.
Last night allies of Mr Miliband said that despite his half-hearted statement, he regarded the latest coup attempt as a 'non-starter'.
A key Brown supporter said: 'We know we have David Miliband's support. He doesn't need to issue some gushing tribute. This is a snowflake, not a snowstorm.'

The plotters were also savaged by a number of Labour MPs. Diane Abbott told Mr Hoon: 'I can only assume that you have taken leave of your senses,' while Christine McCafferty wrote: 'I am appalled by your egocentric agenda and lack of judgement at this critical time.'

Disappointed plotters said a handful of Cabinet ministers had been due to visit Mr Brown to tell him the game was up, but failed to do so.
Challenge: Geoff Hoon's bid fell at the first hurdle

One said: 'My understanding was that it had been fixed but now it seems that the deal had not been done properly.' Labour MP Eric Joyce said two Ministers had promised to resign but reneged at the last minute. Mr Hoon expressed dismay that the coup attempt appeared to have failed - and refused to deny that he had expected a string of Cabinet ministers to back it.
'I am not in a position to say what their views were,' he said. 'They have issued their statements.'
A rebel source said Baroness McDonagh, former Labour party general secretary, met Miss Hewitt to discuss her plans on Monday.

'Pat was certainly left with the impression that Margaret was an emissary from Harriet Harman,' the source said. 'Harriet hates Gordon but has not been willing to go public and say things need to change. She should show some courage.'
In their message to Labour MPs, Mr Hoon and Miss Hewitt said the party was 'deeply divided' over Mr Brown's leadership and the issue needed to be resolved before the election. Privately, some ministers backed the idea.

One senior figure told the Daily Mail: 'I have been astonished by the collapse in Gordon's authority over the last year.'
Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary and Mr Brown's closest ally, insisted the idea was 'a damp squib'.

He added: 'We will move beyond it very quickly. The country will think we will have lost our marbles.'
The attempted coup came hours before a fresh opinion poll showed Labour was closing in on the Conservatives.

According to the YouGov survey for The Sun newspaper, the Tories would secure 40 per cent of the vote if the General Election was held tomorrow, Labour 31 per cent while the Liberal Democrats would attract 17 per cent of the vote.
That would be enough to give David Cameron's Conservatives a slim majority of around ten MPs.
The poll was completed before M Hoon and Miss Hewitt circulated their letter about Gordon Brown's leadership.


It was minutes before he was due in the Commons at noon for the first Prime Minister's Questions of the year that Gordon Brown learned of the extraordinary last-gasp attempt to force him out of No.10.

Having seen off a putsch from inside the Cabinet last year, and with the opinion-poll ratings closing slightly on the Tories, Mr Brown believed he was safe until the General Election.

An attempt to bring down a prime minister at this late stage in the electoral cycle is without precedent.

Labour Party rules make no provision for a secret ballot of MPs on the leadership - and it remains extremely difficult to remove a sitting leader.

According to the party's constitution, a leadership challenge can be launched only if it is backed by 20 per cent of the parliamentary party - currently 71 MPs.
Unless Mr Brown agreed to step down voluntarily, the call would then have to be backed by a vote at the Labour Conference, which is not held until the autumn.

Technically, the party's ruling National Executive Committee, headed by Mr Brown, could call for an emergency conference to debate the issue.

If the conditions for a contest were satisfied an electoral college of unions, MPs and party members would vote on each candidate.

Each group has a third of the vote and each member has one vote to cast.

If Mr Brown chose to resign, the party would have to appoint an interim or 'caretaker' leader until a ballot could be held.
This could be the deputy leader, but a final decision would be made by the Cabinet. Alternatively, Mr Brown could remain as a caretaker leader until the conclusion of a contest.

Margaret Thatcher was toppled a full two years before the 1992 poll, while the leadership ballot faced by John Major came a similar period before the Tories' 1997 wipeout.

And yet, with an election expected in just 120 days, senior Labour figures spent the Christmas break plotting another challenge to Mr Brown.

Talks were held on forcing a secret ballot of MPs - effectively a confidence motion - that he might well struggle to win.

'Gordon could count on the government payroll backing him in a secret ballot, but not much more than that,' said one senior minister. 'He would lose.'

Rebel MPs claim that at least two Cabinet ministers have been involved in frenetic telephone discussions about the coup attempt.
One source in the rebel camp claimed that Baroness McDonagh, Labour's former general secretary, met former Cabinet minister Patricia Hewitt this week to discuss tactics.
The source alleged she had been acting as an 'emissary' for Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman, who has repeatedly denied allegations of plotting to win the leadership for herself.

Unlike last summer's failed putsch, however, following the resignation of cabinet minister James Purnell, great care was taken to ensure that details did not leak out in advance.
There was genuine surprise - and undisguised fury among Brown loyalists - when news broke of Geoff Hoon and Miss Hewitt's explosive emails and text messages to MPs calling for a ballot on the Prime Minister's leadership.

Neither of Mr Brown's two former Cabinet colleagues is seen as being among the 'usual suspects', having voiced no significant criticism of the Prime Minister in the past.
Mr Hoon is a popular figure on the Labour benches, and as a former chief whip is well in touch with the mood of the party's MPs. Yet it was easy enough for Brown loyalists to question his motives.
The former Transport Secretary was known to be unhappy that he was passed over for a top EU job in favour of little-known Labour peer Baroness Ashton, despite having apparently been promised the post by Mr Brown.

And Miss Hewitt - who is leaving Parliament for a lucrative career in the health sector, her old area of ministerial responsibility - can be dismissed as a bitter departing member of the Blairite ' sisterhood'.

Their move appeared disastrously ill-timed, with the country focused on appalling winter weather conditions and Mr Brown having put in an unusually confident performance at PMQs.
Last night, other rebel leaders were expressing fury that the starting gun had been fired on the latest plot without Cabinet support having been clearly established.
Among senior Conservatives, the reaction was mixed. Some were delighted that what was shaping up to be a bad start to election year for them has turned into another unmitigated disaster for Mr Brown.
But others view him as a huge drag on Labour fortunes - and fear a new leader, even at this late stage, might successfully blunt their central 'time for a change' election message.
It is for that reason - with even senior members of the Cabinet privately conceding that Mr Brown cannot lead them to victory in May, and last night issuing lukewarm and belated statements of support - that no one can be sure Labour's latest leadership spasm is yet played out.

It was an hour and 40 minutes after the Hewitt/Hoon bombshell when the first statement supporting Gordon Brown came from a Cabinet member. Others took even longer.

Perhaps the most significant was from Foreign Secretary David Miliband, pictured. He waited for six and a half hours before issuing a terse statement that he 'supports the re-election of the Labour Government he (the PM) is leading'.

12.25pm News of the Hewitt/Hoon letter breaks.

2.05pm A source close to Andy Burnham says the Health Secretary's 'support remains as ever with the Prime Minister'. 3pmShaun Woodward breaks the Cabinet's silence by describing plot as 'a huge distraction that nobody wants'.

3.05pm Lord Mandelson's spokesman says: 'No one should over-react to this initiative.'

3.45pm Ed Balls: 'The Government, Cabinet, the Labour Party is fully behind Gordon Brown. He is the best leader to take us into the election, he's the best person to take the country through this global downturn.'

4pm Chief Whip Nick Brown: 'I strongly disapprove of what has been done. The Whips' office is united behind the Prime Minister and Cabinet.'

5.10pm Alistair Darling: 'As far as I'm concerned we should be concentrating on the business of government and getting through the recession. The PM and I met this afternoon and discussed how we take forward policies to secure the recovery. I won't be deflected from that.'

5.15pm Alan Johnson: 'Gordon Brown is the best man to lead the Labour Party. I respect Patricia and Geoff a great deal but I do not support their proposal.'

5.35pm Jack Straw: 'I do not think there is an issue about the direction Gordon Brown and the Cabinet and the government are trying to lead this country.'

6.24pm Harriet Harman: 'We're all getting on with the job as ministers in the Government Gordon Brown leads. We're all united in our determination to do what's best for the country, which is for Labour, led by Gordon Brown, to win the general election.'

6.48pm Bob Ainsworth: 'The PM has the support of his colleagues. My focus has to be on our forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.'

6.53pm David Miliband: 'I am working closely with the Prime Minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election campaign for a Labour Government that he is leading.'

10.35pm Mandelson refuses to condemn Hoon and Hewitt, but says their bid has failed. He says: 'They are good friends - I respect them. I am sure they thought they were acting in the best interests of the party, but the party didn't agree.'

12.45am Hoon says Labour's divisions will continue into the election unless they are resolved now. He adds: 'We judged this was the right thing for the Labour Party.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1241024/Gordon-Brown-crisis-Geoff-Hoon-Patricia-Hewitt-ballot-Labour-leadership.html?ITO=1708&referrer=yahoo#ixzz0bwAHymRQ

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